You Don’t Have to Drown in Expectations This Christmas

We may not prepare the perfect meal or check off all the to-do items on our list, but we can savor the time we have.

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I looked up at the night sky and saw the stars dancing among the trees. I blinked once, thinking my eyes were playing tricks on me, but the view was the same.

“Look!” I said to my husband. “The stars, they’re moving.”

“Yep. Those are winter fireflies,” he said. Even in the darkness, I could see his smirk. Immediately, I realized what these dancing stars were. The laser Christmas light display from the front yard was projecting over the house into the trees and sky. Its beam added an otherworldly magic to our surroundings, and I sat there taking it in for several minutes. It wasn’t a moment I created or even anticipated. It happened on its own, without my help or planning.

At this time of year, I often feel like I have to create my own magic. The expectations of kids, family, and others can send me into high-stress mode, and before I know it, I’ve forgotten the greatest gift of this season. I struggle between the desire for my kids to remember the meaning of Christmas and the desire to make their Christmas wishes come true. And if family and guests are coming over for dinner? My attempts to make the perfect meal often clash with the reality that a family member is gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan.

Last week I sat in church listening to Christmas carols and wondered if there was a way to love others well but not drown in the weight of expectations. If we could somehow balance the desire to give and serve without sacrificing the wonder of the season.


One of the things I love about the Christmas story is how God used the most ordinary surroundings and circumstances to display the miraculous.

He took a barn and a feeding trough and made them a dwelling place for the King of Kings. He took one of the lowest social classes, the shepherds, and made them first to not only hear the good news but to share it.

God did the preparation and the planning. Everything occurred exactly as it was foretold. All the people surrounding the Christmas story had to do was show up and respond to his voice. And that was enough.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.””

Luke 2:15 NIV

Friend, I don’t know what kind of expectations or stress you’re encountering this season. Whether it’s a child with an unrealistic Christmas list or a family member who triggers you like no other, I don’t want to downplay the reality you might be facing.


But I also want to remind you of this: One of the greatest ways we can magnify God’s presence is to be present for those we love.

To slow down enough to enjoy the moments we often rush past. To listen to their crazy stories and anecdotes and let them know we care about the details.

We may not prepare the perfect meal or check off all the to-do items on our list, but we can savor the time we have. And when we do this, God shows up in ways we could never foresee or anticipate. Like the shepherds, we can witness things we didn’t orchestrate or plan. They simply happen.

But this time, instead of rushing ahead to the next item on our list, we notice. We pay attention. And this beautiful shift makes all the difference.


This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Abby McDonald.

Featured Image by AdamsPics from Pixabay

The views and opinions expressed by Kingdom Winds Collective Members, authors, and contributors are their own and do not represent the views of Kingdom Winds LLC.

About the Author

Abby McDonald is a writer and speaker whose passion is to help women find the hope of Christ in the middle of life’s messes. She is the author of Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God, and her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, (in)Courage, Crosswalk, and more. Abby lives with her husband and three children western Maryland. You can connect with her at

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